Akers says, a bit rhapsodically, that he's out to "think new thoughts and dream new dreams." In an email note last night, he told Light Reading: "I am an entrepreneur... In my time at Lucent I was able to help define the 'Service Intelligent Networking' strategy... and help my team and product to realize its potential. I feel that it is time to move on and accept new challenges."
The announcement is significant on two counts: First, Akers's job is a big one -- perhaps too big. It was formed after the establishment of the INS division in May 2001 under the leadership of INS president Janet G. Davidson (see Lucent Shuffles More Execs).
Akers, who reported directly to Davidson, oversaw product strategy for the range of businesses included in the INS division, including optical networking, multiservice switching, broadband access, edge access, convergent solutions, and network operations software.
Lucent won't say whether the company is looking for a replacement. But the resignation apparently leaves the division without a comparable CTO. At one point, the division had a CTO of optical networking, Rod Alferness. But he has since gone to work at Bell Labs as a senior VP of optical research, according to Lucent.
A second reason the departure is notable is that Akers was an established name at Lucent, having come aboard with the acquisition of Spring Tide Networks in September 2000, where Akers was cofounder and CTO.
Akers, who worked prior to Spring Tide at Shiva, Stratus Computer, and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HWP), was reportedly well thought of by Davidson. And Spring Tide, while no bargain for Lucent at $1.3 billion, is generally considered one of the only decent acquisitions Lucent made in the boom timeframe of 1999 to 2000 (see Whatever Happened to X?, page 5).
Still, scuttlebutt has it that Davidson is tough to work for. Indeed, it's apparent that many former executives of startups bought by Lucent have left the building. The list includes:
Others haven't stayed at all: Allan Wallack, CEO of Spring Tide, and Mory Ejabat, CEO of Ascend Communications (bought by Lucent in 1999) didn't hold positions at Lucent for any length of time.
Akers appears to have had no problems with Davidson. "I enjoyed working for Janet Davidson, whom I consider a bright and capable executive," he says. And in fairness, it's often tough to hang onto a company's top team once it's been bought (see When the CEO Hits the Road).
Is it possible the job was too tough for a single person? Akers's expertise surely didn't span the full range of technologies covered within INS. It may be tough for any exec to cover all the priorities now encompassed within the division.
Analysts say Akers's preference for entrepreneurship has won out. He may simply have tired of the Lucent gig once he'd brought the remaining work on Spring Tide to completion. "A lot of things were already on the plate. A lot of Lucent's [INS] products had already been announced through 2003. There wasn't a lot of room for creating," says Frank Dzubeck, president of Washington, D.C., consultancy Communications Network Architects. Indeed, Lucent seems to have planned its rollout for the next few months comprehensively (see Lucent Unveils Product Lineup and Lucent's LambdaUnite Busts Out).
Dzubeck also suggests that Akers may not have wanted to move from New England to New Jersey, despite encouragement from new CEO Pat Russo, who reportedly likes all execs to be close to headquarters. "Steve is definitely a New Englander," Dzubeck quips.
No one's speculating yet on where Akers may wind up, New England or no, since the startup market is so poor.
— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading